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What Are You Looking for in Friends?


Friends can be a wonderful addition to your life, but you must know what you want in friendship for it to be beneficial. Because so many dysregulated eaters didn’t have great relational role models or healthy parental attachments when they were younger, they may seek attributes in friends that are not realistic. Moreover, not everyone wants the same thing in friends. It works best when you know what you’re looking for.

Activity friends. I know people who have little capacity for deep intimacy but are loads of fun to do things with. They have a vibrant interest in what’s going on around them and like nothing better than an adventure. They love to go to shows, movies, museums, lectures, and events that immerse them in and teach them about the world. 

These may not be the folks to complain to when you’ve had a bad day or turn to when you need emotional support. They’re doers, not feelers. But they’re right there if you want to get out of a funk or stop sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and go somewhere or do something new or different that might actually make you feel better.

Comforting/caring friends. Some friends come quickly to mind when you’re down. You know you can count on them to listen to your woes and validate your pain. They may or may not give advice, but knowing they’re in your corner helps you feel less alone. 

However, these may not be the most energetic folks. They may stay close to home and not be particularly adventurous. If they had to choose, they’d rather help you through a hard time than go see a movie just to get out of the house. 

In an ideal world, you’d have close friends who are both activity-minded and comforting and caring. They’d have a similar energy level to yours and you may even share many interests. But these internally focused and externally focused personalities often don’t reside in the same person. The friend you can talk to for hours on the phone may never want to go out to dinner or to a concert. Alternately, the friend who’s always eager for a new adventure may be not be the least bit psychological or empathic.

It’s crucial to know what you’re looking for in friends and to recognize what they’re capable of and what they have to offer you. I’ve noticed how often clients don’t reach out to the most appropriate people to meet their emotional needs but grab onto whoever is around when they’re hurting. Unfortunately, this lack of discernment only makes them feel worse when they feel unseen, unheard or the other person’s response is hurtful. Remember, even with friends, you need to know your audience.